THIRTEEN WAYS TO KILL LULABELLE ROCK by Maud Woolf (COVER REVEAL & GUEST POST)
In a world of glitzy glamour and burgeoning technology, washed up movie star Lulabelle Rock employs a clone of herself to kill the other twelve versions of herself.
With drama, action, and clones, this whip-smart and thrilling, dark and satirical sci-fi debut tackles themes of identity, family, ethics, and sense of self. Perfect for fans of Orphan Black, Killing Eve, and Justina Robson’s Keeping it Real.
|THEMES: identity, family, ethics, and sense of self|
ABOUT THE BOOK: Set in a world of the near future, the celebrity elite have access to a technology that allows them to make perfect copies of themselves, known as Portraits. These Portraits exist to fulfil all the various duties that come as the price of fame.
Our protagonist is the thirteenth copy made of the actress known as Lulabelle Rock. Her purpose is very simple: to track down and eliminate her predecessors.
While initially easy, her task is made difficult by the labyrinthine confusion of Bubble City and the unfortunate stirrings of a developing conscience. When she makes the mistake of falling in love with one of her targets, the would-be assassin faces the ultimate question; when you don’t want to kill yourself, what’s the alternative?
|Content Warning: violence, blood, suicide, implied sexual content|
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maud Woolf is a one-time bookseller at Forbidden Planet. She was a student on the Glasgow University Creative Writing course and graduated with an MLit with distinction. She has had a number of short stories published in online magazines but this is her debut novel. She lives in Glasgow.
Thirteen Way to Kill Lulabelle Rock is due for publication January 2024.
Find out more on the Angry Robot Website
What I learned selling books and how it helped me write one.
When I graduated I had absolutely no idea about what I wanted to do with my life. At twenty-three, and freshly out of a long-term relationship, I had just moved to England to help support my mother after a health scare. I wasn’t really making choices so much as falling into situations.
As strange as it was living in a new city, there were a lot of upsides to Bristol. High up on that list was Forbidden Planet. For those who don’t know, Forbidden Planet is a chain that pretty much sells everything sci-fi and fantasy related. On one of many days spent browsing the Manga shelves, I applied for my job there, slightly ad hoc. It wasn’t until later I learned the role would deal specifically with the book section.
Over the course of the next year working there, I would write my first novel – something else to add to the list of things I didn’t plan for. At the time I wouldn’t have thought that writing books and selling them were particularly related to each other; in retrospect, however, I can see that maybe I wouldn’t have been able to do one without the other.
Throughout my time at Forbidden Planet these were the most important things I learned:
Word-of-mouth is invaluable.
More so than in any other part of the shop, customers in the book section would talk to each other. More than a few times, before I could even get in with my sales pitch, a customer would already be picking their favourite book off the shelf to talk about it – often to complete strangers.
Perhaps it’s something to do with science fiction and fantasy fans, but they are passionate when it comes to spreading the good word. If just one person likes your book, then you’ve made a lifelong ally.
Unfortunately this has a flip side; if someone takes a dislike to your work then they will not be shy about it. I won’t say the book but I once had a customer who would repeatedly come in and turn the spines to the wall for one specific author for whom the customer had what could only be described as a blood feud with.
You need an elevator pitch.
As someone who spent an embarrassing amount of time as a teenager reading fanfiction, I was struck by how often the marketing material we were sent contained what seemed to be AO3 tags. Enemies to Lovers! Found Family! Questionable Werewolf Content!
When publishers were pitching books to us or we were pitching books to customers you don’t have a lot of time to get into literary merit or the innovations in complex world building. I needed to be able to say, if you like NK Jemison you’ll like this or this is about two sisters and a bear god. When I started sending my book out to potential literary agents, I had to work on cutting my pitch down to these key elements. As much as I wanted to say, my book is about the way people compartmentalise their personalities, it wasn’t as interesting as, the thirteenth clone of a celebrity is created to kill all the others.
The prestige of the publisher does not determine the quality of the book.
Perhaps this goes without saying, but having skimmed through a lot of new releases, I can say that the main difference between books published by big-name publishers as opposed to small ones is the amount of money invested. Smaller publishers will often have devoted readers who will read anything they put out simply because they like the back catalogue.
The cover however will make or break a sale; which is why when it came to deciding on a cover for my book, I was incredibly grateful to be able to weigh in on the decision.
Don’t start ranking the competition or you will never be able to enjoy reading again.
The amount of good work out there can be incredibly intimidating. On bad days I have an allergic reaction to bookshops and I still can’t watch anything clone-related without getting The Fear.
You have to fight the urge to go Scrooge and become hypercritical of all novels even slightly similar to yours. Sometimes you’ll think, I can do better than that! but that can be a nasty road to go down and will eventually make you unable to read anything without a mental red marking pen. In my case I had to channel The Fear into being productive to fight it.
I don’t think my ego could have survived working as a bookseller unless I was going home and writing. After spending my days reading, sorting and selling other people’s creativity, I needed something of my own to keep me from going crazy. Sometimes this felt like a temper tantrum (well I can do it too!) but more often than that it was a reliable and inexhaustible source of ideas. Just reading a synopsis or glancing at a front cover would flick on a little light in my brain. I like that but what if…?
There is a place for new stories and new voices.
When I first started working at Forbidden Planet, I immediately started making sure we were stocked up on the classics. This turned out to be a rookie mistake; most of our customers had been reading SFF from childhood. They wanted new stories, new characters, new worlds to explore.
The books we sold were all sci-fi and fantasy but within those categories the range was huge. Forget the cramped little shelf in your average general bookshop. We had all the usual big names, but there were so many authors alongside who were just starting out and still finding their audience. These were books without Netflix stickers, not written by comedians or radio hosts. Every time I had a crisis of faith writing my novel, I had to remind myself of the love and support readers gave these books.
While all of these things helped me, both at the writing stage and beyond, really the most important lesson wasn’t about books at all; it was about the people who buy them. As a writer this was the first time I really thought about my readers, not as a vague faceless mass but as real people. People who were always hungry for another story and just might be interested in reading mine. Knowing these readers were out there gave me something concrete to aim for. By the time I left Forbidden Planet I had stopped drifting and started making choices. I started thinking of my writing not as a hobby for after work but something I wanted to invest in. My book, Thirteen Ways to Kill Lulabelle Rock, has gone through a lot of changes over the past few years but it was born out of the same ideas I had stacking shelves.
All I can hope for is that someone out there will pick it up off one of those shelves when it comes out and feel some kind of way about it. Even if they don’t love it then at the very least, I hope they don’t hate it enough to turn the spine to the wall.